Sunday, January 27, 2008

Today's Sermon

Sexagesima – January 27th, 2008 – Luke 8:4-15

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +

The image of a sower is a common one in the US. The sower brings with him the spread and growth of that which is good. Growing up I would hear tales of Johnny Appleseed, who went over the Midwest scattering apple seeds. Or even here in Oklahoma – on my OU class ring there is the picture of a sower. We are familiar with the idea of the Sower – and I would wager that the idea of the Sower is so popular in our culture because of today’s Gospel lesson. The parable of the Sower – and it’s even a parable that has an explanation attached to it. But rather than rest on our laurels and just assume we know all about what God is teaching with this parable – because after all, who better than farmers to know about sowing – let us with all due diligence examine the Word of our Lord in this parable, bit by bit, and see what it is that we learn from Christ today.

A sower went out to sow his seed. That is how the parable starts – and Christ will tell us what this means. The seed is the Word of God. And here we get the first distinction, the first thing that sets things up. This is a farming community. We have lots of farmers. When you think of “farmers” – you think of farms. The word Farmer puts a focus on the importance of the land – the place. That’s not what Christ does with this parable. The key, the focus is the seed, that which the Sower sows. The focus is upon the Word of God. So why is this important to us? Because with everything else that happens in this parable, the focus on different soils and what happens to the young plants – the foundation, the basis is always the seed. It always ties to the Word. If the seed is not scattered, the soils don’t matter. If the Word is not proclaimed – there will be no growth – or as the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans – But how are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have not heard? This is the key – the Word must be proclaimed, the Word is to be preached. Sometimes we can jump past this. This parable isn’t about “good” people and “bad” people. It is about what happens when the Word is proclaimed. So let us see what happens when the Word is proclaimed.

And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. Christ explains this to us saying, The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Now, note here the distinction. The sower sows, and the birds take away. The Word goes out – and Satan steals it away. Let me ask you a question. When does this happen? When does Satan snatch away God’s Word from people? Luther in the explanation to the first petition about God’s Holy Name writes – “God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the Name of God among us. Protect us from this dear Father in heaven.” So when is the Word snatched away? When we hinder God’s Word. When we with our actions prevent people from hearing the Word of God. Just as I might ask the Sower of this parable, what good is it to toss your seed on the path, how often do we write people off as not being worthy of hearing God’s Word? How often does our contempt and scorn lead someone to say, “If that’s what those Christians are like – I don’t want to have anything to do with them”? This is what we are being warned of. Are we speakers and doers of the Word, or by our words and actions to we hinder others, do we snatch and steal away from them the Word of God? It is a heavy question, and I ask you to ponder it this week in your interaction with your friends and neighbors – especially the ones whom you might dislike, or have grudges against – the ones whom Satan can more easily tempt you to treat poorly. But let us continue.

And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And Christ our Lord tells us, And the ones upon the rock are those who, when they hear the Word receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. This dear friends is a warning to us. Times of testing come. Things will be rough off and on again. What will happen at those times? Will you live, or will you die? The question is – how are your roots? Are you firmly rooted in the Word of God – do you come here often to hear it preached, do you study it, both with us here at Church and at home? Or is God’s Word a passing thing with you – maybe an hour a week if I can spare it, and the rest of the time there is nothing but indifference? Be in the Word! Study it diligently, hear it preached, learn and grow – so that you can stand up to the trials and hardships of this life. Perhaps the most devastating lie that Satan has unleashed upon us in America is the idea that our lives ought to be a bowlful of cherries. We will be always healthy and wealthy – which is a lie. Bad times happen. Many of you remember the Depression and the Dust Bowl. It’s happened. Bad things probably will happen again – for we live in a sinful world. But what happens when bad times do come? Are you rooted in the Word and ready to withstand that day? Dear friends, be in the Word.

And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And Christ explains this to us – And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And now the danger that hits home. We could dodge the whole “path” issue – we can look and say, “We are here, so we don’t have to worry about being rocky soil” – but this one – this one hits us. Those who hear, but go on their way and are choked by the things of this life. How often does that describe you, dear friends? How often is there just something better to do, something more important? Things are going well – and I don’t have time. I know the Word is important – but I have all this other stuff going on. We see the blessing we get from God, and we spend so much time focusing on those blessings that we can ignore God. Oh, we know that God and His Word are important – but we can find nice excuses. And it’s not that bad, we think, because *I* still believe. But note what Christ says – and their fruit does not mature. Their fruit. Their benefit to others. They don’t fruit out, they produce no seed of their own. Contrast this to that which falls in the good soil – And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundred fold. What does this mean? As for that in the good soil, they are those who hearing the Word hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. The plant should produce seed. If you plant wheat, you should get more wheat from it, more seed.

This is one of the places that we can trip up, that we can fall down on. We like to jump directly and only to how things impact us. What can I survive, what can my faith handle and deal with before it’s crushed. Can your faith live, survive, if you are lazy and lax in hearing the Word? You may live, you may die. But will you be fruitful – will you be a tool that God uses to give His Word to others? The concern in this parable is not just for the plant – but that the plant be fruitful – that from this plant the Word of God goes forth a hundred fold – that we as Christians see not just to our own faith, but that from us the Word of God is spread and shouted to the multitudes.

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. Now do you hear what Christ is warning us? We can get bogged down and busy and eventually – we stop making Church, we stop making God’s Word a priority in our lives. Can we survive? We can, we might, but we don’t grow, we don’t bear fruit. If you don’t hear the Word, if you don’t study it diligently – are you prepared to speak to others? If it doesn’t come in here (your ears) – it’s not going to come out of here (your mouth). But not just our words, but our actions. Do they point to Christ? If you don’t make going to Church, coming to hear God’s Word, studying His Word a priority – why would you expect the non-Church goer to suddenly start doing the very things you don’t? If we show indifference to the Church, why would the unchurched, why would those who have stopped coming, think they need to come? Our indifference hurts others. When they see that we don’t care about what goes on here, they see no reason why they should care either.

But the parable doesn’t end with our failures. It ends with us hearing that God’s Word causes growth – fruitful growth. God and His Word causes growth – that’s the key. Be in the Word, and growth is the result. First and foremost – it will be your growth. Be in the Word and God will grow you. Hear His Word, receive His forgiveness – have your eyes drawn to your Savior, know again and again that Christ died for your sins – and your sin is forgiven. You weaknesses of the past covered and done away with – and you are given growth. And when you continue to grow – you will be fruitful – you will speak the Word with your lips, your own actions will show forth Christ and Him Crucified. This is what Christ will cause to happen in you. Now, will this suddenly make dozens of people flock here – I don’t know. The sower casts the seed – and sometimes it hits rocky places. But we do see this – that growth only can come from God’s Word – so then let us rededicate ourselves to be in that Word ourselves, so that we might grow, that we might learn better and better to show forth Christ. Then the Holy Spirit will work when and where He wills. But as for you – Christ grows you with His Word, His Word of forgiveness and life – not only for your own sake, but also so that through you His Word might be proclaimed. Rejoice that the Lord desires such growth for you and promises to bring it about by His Word freely given. Amen.

1 comment:

Doorman-Priest said...

I love to hear familiar stories retold. There is always something to ponder on afresh.